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Vol. 10, No. 2, 2011
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Robert J. Lewis
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why black women are disporportionately against

Marina Adshade


Professor Marina Adshade teaches an undergraduate course called Economics of Sex and Love at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This article originally appeared in


For a change of pace, I drove up to Prince Edward Island (Canada) to see the musical Hairspray at the Charlottetown Festival. As you may already know, Hairspray is set in 1962 and takes a rather cheerful look at segregation in the world of entertainment. At the end of the play, we are left with the sense that a new era of integration has begun -- the birth of which is personified in the relationship blossoming between two of the main characters, a white woman and a black man.

Jump forward 50 years, and back into the real world, and one place we have notably failed to see integration is in sexual relationships. For example, if we randomly assigned people in the U.S. to their marriage partners, we would expect 44% of marriages to be between two people of different races. According to the 2000 Census, however, only 4% of marriages fit that description. New evidence from speed-dating trials can help us to untangle the reasons for this persistent segregation in dating and marriage.

One of the reasons why speed-dating trials are so interesting is that they help us to separate preference for a same-race partner from other factors that might lead to this segregated outcome. For example, socio-geographic segregation between the races might explain dating segregation if people date others who are like them in terms of income, education -- or simply people who live in the same geographic area. Dating trials tell us that if we removed these barriers to interracial relationships, same-race preferences in dating would ensure that interracial marriage would continue to be rare. The question is: What the source of these preferences?

Actions speak louder than words, so speed dating trials are more informative than simply asking people who they would, and would not, be interested in dating. For example, an online dating website filter might ask the question “Which of the following races would be willing to communicate with?” We find that answers to that question are often not consistent with choices made after the fact (i.e. people say they want to communicate with many other races but then only communicate with their own race). Creative people need to find alternative ways to observe those choices in action, making speed dating the perfect tool.

So, for example: You are at a speed dating event. You have a chance to meet someone of the opposite sex for a total of four minutes to determine if he or she is someone you wish to meet again. You can accept or reject potential partners, and that information is used to determine your preferences for a mate without relying on surveys. The results of a recent trial, and in fact all studies I have seen on this topic, suggest that men and women have a distinctly different set of racial preferences. Same-race preferences for a partner are almost completely driven by the preferences of women, regardless of race. Black women appear to have a stronger same-race preference than anyone else. White women also have a same-race preference but men, regardless of race, exhibit no preference for a partner of their same race. This suggests that if preferences are driving the lack of interracial couples in the U.S. that outcome comes from the choices made by women and not by men.

In this particular study participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of the people they were meeting on a scale of one to ten and, while women at least have a preference to date men of the same race as themselves, they don’t find men of their race any more attractive than men of a different race. So same-race preference doesn’t appear to be driven by notions of what is considered attractive in a mate. The same result is found for a measure of shared interests.

Participants in the study that came from racially intolerant places show a stronger same-race preference then people who come from a tolerant place. (Tolerance in geographic areas is measured by the share of those surveyed in that area that answered “yes” to the question: “Do you think there should be laws against marriages between Negroes/Blacks/Africa/Americans and whites?”). Despite the fact that all the participants in the speed dating trail were in one place (in fact they are all students at Columbia University) their roots played a role in the choices they made.

The magnitude of the effect of coming from intolerant background is very large. For example, a participant from a low-tolerance state such as South Carolina (where 28% of those surveyed feel that interracial marriage should be banned) has same-race preferences that are 16% points higher than participant from a state such as New York (where 22% feel that interracial marriage should be banned). Also, familiarly with a particular race does not increase an individual’s willingness to date someone of that race, the greater the share of the home population that is that race the less a participant was willing to date them.

Marriage rates of black women in the U.S. are the lowest in the country; in 2007 only 33% of black women were married. This marriage-gap has been explained by high incarceration rates among black men, reducing their income and marriage prospects for the future, and the growing divide in education rates between black women and black men. If you have ever wondered why, given the shortage of marriage material, black women don’t just marry white men this research suggests that it isn’t because white men are not interested in dating black women. Unlike the girls in Hairspray, it seems that many black women would prefer to be single than to become a "checkerboard chick."



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I have two problems with interracial dating/marriages in America; both of them specific. 1. If there is a huge religion gap. The bible speaks against the practice; it was Solomon's downfall, if I'm not mistaken; when this happens, the philosophies by which you are governed are very different! Either you argue all the time (and divorce or murder is possible) or one person is forced to soften his/her stance to appease the other. The kids are also confused! I have a problem with this anywhere that it happens. 2. In America, BMWF relationship is a unbalanced marriage. Here's why: Racist whites are far more progressive with racism than blacks and, for them, black men are enemy number 1! Racist whites poison, give dirty handshakes, kill black men, germify food, disown their kids/grandkids, mistreat mixed kids, etc. That's the only two problems that I have with interracial couples; anything else is doable
I cannot tell, from this study, if the unwillingness of women to date across colour/ethnic lines is basic preferences of the women, or if the preference is derivative of women's perceptions of the willingness of men to marry [or just responsibly and reliably cohabit with] women. Thus, if a black woman dates to get married, and if that black woman believes that white (or Asian or Hispanic) men will date but will not marry black women, the black woman may not be interested in dating across racial lines. Thus, the dating preferences we observe are purely an artifact of women's beliefs about men's willingness to marry. Men, on the other hand, might date as an end in itself (at least some of the time). Or, men might believe that women of all races are equally likely to be willing to marry.

For example, a significant minority (10 to 15%) of the marriage licenses pulled in Los Angeles County are 'interracial,' according to how the couples fill out the forms. This is, to my knowledge, the highest rate of any county in the USA. I would hypothesize that if the women date to marry hypothesis is correct, one should see a higher rate of women willing to date across colour and ethnic lines in Los Angeles than in places where interracia" marriage is less common.

Do you have data that bear on alternative explanations?
I would be interested to meet some one who is so caring and lovely and good looking maybe possible leading to marriage. Please if there is some one with the same interest feel free to contact me.
I am a black woman and my husband is a white man. We have been together for years and every where we go black women a ways ask me: "What's it like to be with a white man?" The reason they ask is because they want to date white men but they just don't know how to approach them or they will say: "Can you find me a white guy?" Black women want to date white men but some are afraid of rejection and humiliation
I am a black woman and I would much rather not marry at all than marry a white person. My reasoning is in their culture. They have proven through media projection that they are interested in black women simply for the thrill.' There has often been a lack of wanting to care for these women they seek so hard to degrade. I find the same truth in white women/black men. White men, in my opinion, don't want to love us. They want to use us. White women, also in my opinion, don't want to love black men. They want to use them ($, status, appeal, or sex). Just my thoughts on what I've seen.
Part of the problem are the terms of reference. It shouldn't be about wanting to or preferring to be with someone who is white or black. Doesn't "content of character" count for anything? Mixed couples are colour blind; however the relationship goes, it has nothing to do with skin colour. Yes, we know the skin colours are unlike, but like unlike hair colour it's only a data point -- and nothing more than that. From the above comments I see that too many woman are trapped in the prison of colour, which is sad because when it comes to dating and romance, that is one area where there is no racism/prejudice.
Interracial relationships are a thing of the past. Most black men like me now want to stay in our race and take care of our black women. These days all the guys I know no longer want to get involved with white women because of two reasons: 1. The knowledge of black men regarding slavery is now deep and we now do not want to give the white women the idea that they are in any way preferable to our black women. 2. A lots of us these days can travel to our ancestral continent Africa and when we do we are amazed at the women of that continent. Their unique beauty is beyond words and so many do marry over there. Black men are now not looking for white women. Too sad our black woman in these parts are now looking for white men. They need to educate themselves that the white man will always consider them as the slaves that they used to rape in the outhouse and in the slave ships on the mighty waters. Black women are superiorly more beautiful and sexy than white women. God gave us black men the best. Thank you God.




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